Supporting people with diabetes in humanitarian settings

Last update: 02/07/2020

Over 460 million people around the world are currently living with diabetes. Many, particularly in low and middle-income countries, do not have the means to access the medications and supplies they need to manage their condition to avoid complications.

People with diabetes need uninterrupted access to medicines and care. They need healthy food and a safe space to exercise. Caring for diabetes becomes even more difficult when disaster strikes and people are forced to flee. In these difficult circumstances, people with diabetes often struggle to manage their condition and are at increased risk of life-threatening complications.

Since 2009, the International Diabetes Federation has collaborated with the humanitarian organisation Direct Relief to provide access to life-sustaining medication and monitoring to vulnerable populations. The supplies include insulin, needles & syringes, blood glucose meters & strips, and specialized diagnostic equipment.

Direct Relief is active in more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. Their assistance programmes are tailored to the particular circumstances and needs of the world's most vulnerable and at-risk populations and their relationships with prominent regional and global associations and agencies enable them to respond to crisis situations in the most timely and effective manner possible. 

DR logo 400pxDirect Relief works closely with all three global insulin manufacturers and is currently the world’s largest provider of humanitarian insulin. Direct Relief’s facility has the refrigeration capacity to store specialty medicines (up to 300 pallets of cold- chain product) for distribution to over 100 countries around the world.

Temperature-sensitive medicines like insulin are shipped in specialised packaging that maintains a constant temperature range for up to 120 hours. To ensure and verify that temperature has been maintained throughout the transit process, temperature-data loggers are inserted into each package to record the internal temperature of the shipment, to be confirmed within range before the product is released for use by those who need them.

In 2019, IDF and Direct Relief began a pilot collaboration to encourage healthcare manufacturers to donate diabetes-related medications and supplies to help address gaps in diabetes care during times of emergency and or crisis situations. The collaboration has resulted in the donation and distribution of over 5 million tablets of oral diabetes medications, tens of thousands of vials of insulin, and diabetes-related supplies to numerous countries, including the Bahamas, Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Malawi, North Korea, Republic of Congo, Syria, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

IDF and Direct Relief are inviting healthcare companies that manufacture diabetes-related medicines, enabling technologies, and diagnostic products to support this programme with regular donations to assist countries and regions impacted by emergency and disaster situations. IDF will help identify and work with its members in those affected regions that need support to ensure an appropriate and rapid response.

For more information about the initiative and how to support it, please contact:

  • IDF: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Operations
  • Direct Relief: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., VP of Corporate Engagement
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